KEYSER STORES OF YESTERYEAR: The A&P
Part 4: The A&P Store
The official name of the A&P store was The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. At first, people referred to the store as the “Tea Store” and then just “A&P.”
According to Wikipedia, The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company was an American chain of grocery stores that operated from 1859 to 2015. From 1915 through 1975, it was the largest grocery retailer in the United States and was considered an American icon. According to The Wall Street Journal, “A&P was as well known as McDonald's or Google is today – it was 'the Walmart before Walmart.'”
In 1930, A&P was the world's largest retailer and reached $2.9 billion in sales across 16,000 stores. In 1936, it adopted the self-service supermarket concept and opened 4,000 larger stores and phased out many of its smaller ones. A&P made famous its own store brands, such as Ann Page and Eight O'clock Coffee. A&P's decline began in the early 1950s when it failed to keep pace with competitors that opened larger, more modern supermarkets. On July 19, 2015, A&P filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The first A&P location in Keyser was on the corner of Mineral and West Piedmont streets. The store later moved to Armstrong Street in the building that later became the Wolf Furniture Company. After the Armstrong Street location, the company moved to lower Main Street that later became Markwood Furniture Store, and then to the top of Main Street hill in 1951. The newest store was built at that location in 1969.
Some of the people that worked at our local A&P were Willis Shoemaker, Robert “Bob” Broom, Mary Jon Warnick, Ollie Duhamel, Gilbert “Gib” Harber, Georganna Whetsell, Connel Rogers, Ronald Rogers, Mary Knight, Imogene Dawson, Ed Kight, and Bunk Hayes. Gib Harber, who was a professional meat cutter, came to the A&P in 1935 and then helped his son Mike open a food store in Berlin, Pennsylvania. Mr. Harber's other son, Joe, retired as vice president of administration of Giant Foods. Mr. Tracey Reel worked as the longest of any A&P manager in Keyser. After retiring from A&P in 1970, Mr. Reel opened his own gas station in Romney.
My recollection is that the Keyser store burned down, sometime in the early 1980s.
My fondest memory of the Keyser A&P was when Gib Harber would filet different types of fish for our Passover Seder every year. My mother would then make the fish into balls called gefilte fish (gefilte is the Yiddish word for “stuffed fish” and is a common food eaten during the Jewish Passover Seder).